Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

MA Geography and Archaeology

UCAS code: LV74

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Introducing MA Geography and Archaeology

Why is the world configured as it is? That's the core of geography - the study of how our planet works.

Do you have a keen interest in cultures and societies? Curious about the inter-relation of politics and the environment? Geography may be for you.

Through geography, you can explore biophysical processes, from volcanic eruptions to flooding and landslides. You can also study the human processes that give shape to cities, states, and communities – all against the backdrop of a changing climate.

You can study geography as either a natural science or a social science.

  • Physical Geography is a natural science and examines the Earth's surface processes.
  • Human Geography is primarily a social science, though it also has close links to the humanities like history and philosophy.

Through this Master of Arts (MA) Geography, you will be able to specialise in Human Geography. This discipline is key to understanding and resolving many of the most pressing problems faced by society.

Geographers study many different aspects of the modern world. They bring their research to inform on topics such as:

  • immigration
  • mobility
  • public health
  • deprivation
  • urban justice
  • indigenous struggles
  • land rights
  • everyday life

You'll learn about the relationships between people and their social, cultural, political, and economic worlds.

Our MA in Geography also includes aspects of physical geography, as it is important to understand our impact on the world and our ways of living within it. The degree is flexible, so you will have opportunities to build your degree around areas that you are most curious or passionate about.

On our Joint Honours programmes you can combine your studies with another academic discipline. This will enable you to understand the world from the perspectives of different academic disciplines in an area you are most passionate about.

Archaeology investigates the human past using material remains such as artefacts and excavated sites to reconstruct the economic, social and cultural life of early societies. At Edinburgh we have a rich tradition of archaeological teaching and research, specialising in European prehistory, the early civilisations of the Mediterranean and the Near East and Egypt. You will be introduced to standard and innovative archaeological techniques and the practice and theory of archaeology. This will include the study of science-based archaeology, the study of animal and human bones and digital applications.

We emphasise the importance of training in practical archaeological skills. You can gain hands-on experience of artefact identification and analysis in practical sessions using artefacts from our own Vere Gordon Childe collection.

If you choose to study geography at the University of Edinburgh, you will become part of an academic community in one of the leading geography departments in the UK, and one of the top-ranked universities in the world. As a result, you will learn from geographers who are at the forefront and drivers of change and are undertaking world-leading research in a wide range of areas.

Field work

As part of this particular programme, you are expected to participate in an archaeological fieldwork project.

Our students will also normally complete three weeks of archaeological fieldwork at the end of Year 1 and have the option to undertake further fieldwork, as well as projects in heritage management and public engagement, and the lab-based analysis of archaeological remains, in later years of study.

As the content of the programme is updated to reflect the advancing subject matter and student feedback, the location of fieldwork may change. It may also be changed due to Covid-19, and where suitable, fieldwork will be relocated or rescheduled.

We will also look at alternative arrangements that will ensure you achieve the quality learning outcomes of your degree. Any changes will be announced as soon as possible.

Decisions will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community, and to ensure the highest standards for educational experience.

*(Revised 13 November 2020 to included notice about fieldwork changes.)

We encourage you to review the Degree Programme Table for this programme to see compulsory and option courses. This is linked to below Year 4, under the 'Programme structure' heading.

Year 1

As a Joint Honours student, your programme begins with foundations in both Human and Physical Geography. You will focus on a wide range of topics including global, economic, social and environmental problems. You will also complete introductory courses in Archaeology.

In addition to compulsory courses, you have the opportunity to choose option courses in areas that are of interest to you. There is a wide range of options to explore topics you are curious or passionate about, from Anthropology to Architectural History, Philosophy to Physics, Geology to German – there are numerous courses to choose from.

You can choose to take courses that are closely related to the degree or try something completely different and new to you.

During the vacation at the end of Year 1, you will undertake three weeks of archaeological fieldwork.

Year 2

From Year 2, you will focus on human geography in areas such as economic and political geography, social and cultural geography and geomorphology.

You will also study compulsory courses in Archaeology. You will also have a choice of option courses, giving you flexibility in your studies.

Year 3

In Year 3, you will focus on the aspects of Geography and Archaeology that interest you the most. There will be a wide range of option courses for you to tailor your degree to your interests.

You will also receive training in research skills and research design in either Geography or Archaeology. This will lead you through the process of planning independent research in preparation for your dissertation in Year 4, and teach important transferable skills.

Year 4

A significant focus in your final year will be on your dissertation, which is an independent, original piece of research in your chosen specialist field.

You will also take additional option courses in either Geography or Archaeology, providing the opportunity to shape your degree around your interests.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2020/21)

Our facilities

The Institute of Geography building is located within the University’s Central Area campus. It is on Drummond Street, bounded by the 16th Century Flodden Wall and also just along the road from where David Bowie first adopted his Ziggy Stardust persona.

The building contains well-equipped lecture and seminar rooms, and IT laboratory (with software for image processing, geographical information science GIS, and modelling). It also has laboratories for Physical Geography (including facilities for soil, pollen and sediment analysis, and cosmogenic sample preparation). The Institute is also close to many of the teaching spaces and resources available on the University’s central campus.

For your archaeology courses, The School of History, Classics & Archaeology is located within the University's Central Area and has excellent teaching and study facilities. Some of your classes will also take place at the National Museum of Scotland. We have five archaeological research and teaching laboratories, including post-excavation processing and wet chemistry labs as well as a large teaching laboratory for the study of skeletal remains.

Depending on the option courses selected in your programme, you may also study at various University campus locations in the vibrant city of Edinburgh.

How will I learn?

The exciting nature of geography means you will have a diverse learning experience throughout your years with us. Teaching can be through a mix of lectures, tutorials, project work, practical classes and workshops.

Through your degree, you will be expected to study for approximately 200 hours per 20 credit course. How this time is divided varies, and is dependent on the courses you choose to study and the nature of the topics explored.

Typically you will study three courses each semester. Each course will have around 30 hours of contact time (on average, three to four hours of contact per week). This contact time could be lectures, tutorials, or practicals.

Beyond lectures, you will be expected to undertake independent learning (reading, preparing for lectures and tutorials, completing an assessment, and developing your study skills).

Option courses enable you to select areas of study in areas you are most passionate about. In your final year, you will design your own project dissertation with guidance from our expert academics, helping you develop skills to become a researcher in your own right.


One of the main ways we teach is through lectures, and these are the main form of contact you have with academic staff. Most lectures last 50 minutes.


Practicals allow you to apply the knowledge acquired in lectures and tutorials and develop a range of practical skills. It’s important to recognise that the skills you learn in practicals are transferable beyond the immediate course. They can be applied in other courses, in dissertations, and even beyond your degree.


Many courses include tutorials. Tutorials are a form of small group teaching that is facilitated by a tutor. Tutorials are an essential opportunity for you to:

  • discuss specific topics in more depth
  • develop skills in critical thinking
  • communicate your understanding
  • work as part of a team
  • receive feedback
  • ask questions

Field trips

Fieldwork is a fundamental part of archaeology. During the summer after your first year of archaeology, you will undertake a minimum of 3 weeks of archaeological fieldwork, either on a project run by staff within the School, or an approved project outside the School.

Self-directed study

Emphasis is placed on independent work, and you will need to be well-motivated and organised.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed in a variety of ways, depending on the courses you choose to study in your programme and the nature of the topics explored.

Assessment might include:

  • written or practical exams and quizzes
  • practical evaluation in the field or field notebooks
  • coursework such as essays
  • individual or group projects
  • presentations

In your final year, you will complete a dissertation.

Programme details

Find out more about this programme's aims, what you will learn, how you will be assessed and what skills and knowledge you will develop.

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme details (2020/21)

Studying geography gives you a wide range of career opportunities, and is reflected in the diversity of occupations and employers our students take up after university.

You can seek employment in a variety of areas, including:

  • scientific and humanities research
  • environmental consultancy
  • conservation
  • planning and surveying
  • teaching
  • government
  • charitable organisations
  • environmental management
  • geospatial data analysis

Graduates have also moved into areas such as finance, marketing, law, and communications and media.

Types of roles our graduates have obtained include Political Committee Specialist, Carbon Management Project Officer, UN Refugee Partnerships Officer, GIS Technologist, Criminal Intelligence Analyst, Science Engagement Officer, Government Liaison Officer, Head of Transport, and Film Maker.

Examples of organisations where our graduates are employed include local government, the United Nations, Dynamic Earth, Ecometrica Space Programme, BBC, Scottish Government, Centre for Sustainable Energy, Nestle, Accenture, CNN, Barclays Bank, Geocento, esriUK, MapAction. Many archaeology graduates find employment as professional archaeologists working for government agencies, universities, museums and heritage organisations or applied archaeological companies/consultancies in the UK or elsewhere.

The School of GeoSciences is one of the largest groupings of geographers in the UK. You will have access to our wide range of research and industry networks, as well as a world-class experience with real-world relevance. Under the guidance of academics who are leaders in their field, you will be equipped with sought-after skills in geographical research.

Additionally, our programmes prepare you for competitive entry into relevant postgraduate degree programmes. A significant proportion of our students progress to further postgraduate study and research.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAA - AAAB (achievement by end of S5 preferred). BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAA - ABB.
  • IB: 37 points with 666 at HL - 32 points with 555 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: AABB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 32 points with 555 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. Applicants with Geography are preferred. National 5s: Mathematics or Lifeskills Mathematics at C and English at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. Applicants with Geography are preferred. GCSEs: Mathematics at C or 4 and English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. Applicants with Geography are preferred. SL: English and either Mathematics or Mathematical Studies at 5 (if not at HL). From 2021, both the Mathematics Analysis & approaches and Applications & interpretation pathways will be accepted*.

    *(Revised 13 October 2020 to correct information on accepted Mathematics pathways.)

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 at A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 at C
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified*:

  • IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

English language requirements

*(Revised 27 April 2020 to include TOEFL-iBT Special Home Edition.)

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for MA Geography and Archaeology

Additional costs

In Year 1, you are expected to participate in an archaeological fieldwork project. The minimum requirement is three weeks of field experience. Archaeological projects often charge a participation fee.

We can make a contribution towards your mandatory fieldwork in Year 1, and also to fieldwork and practical work in later years if it contributes to your programme, but the overall cost to you will depend on the type of work chosen and the location.

In later years, you may opt to undertake additional practical archaeological work in the vacations following Year 2 and 3. If you study abroad in Year 3, your costs will vary by country.

Excursions as part of optional courses entail extra fees, which vary depending on the nature of the field trip.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding

More information

How to apply

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering